Hamas delegation arrives in Cairo for ceasefire talks
Under heavy Israeli bombardment of Gaza, Hamas reversed its refusal to send emissaries to Cairo for ceasefire talks Monday, Jan. 5, Day 10 of Israel’s Cast Lead offensive. debkafile reports that Muhammad Nasser and Imad al-Alami, Hamas chief operations officer, have arrived in Cairo from Damascus and Beirut. Egypt put before them its proposal for ceasing hostilities on the basis of the defunct 2005 accord, whereby the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority took charge of the Gaza crossings and international monitors were stationed at the Rafah crossing to Egypt.
This accord fell victim to the coup Hamas staged against the Palestinian Authority in June of that year. Cairo has appended two further conditions: demilitarization of the smuggling tunnels running under the Gaza-Egyptian border and the case of Gilead Shalit, the Israeli soldier Hamas kidnapped two and a half years ago.
Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman said Monday, Jan. 5, that his organization had accepted an Egyptian invitation to send a delegation to Cairo to discuss “the cessation of (Israeli) aggression and the lifting of the three-year old blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
He spoke on the second full day of Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip and a full-scale infantry, tank and engineering assault to blow up the hundreds of tunnels under the Philadelphi corridor, on the southern Gaza’s border with Egypt and sever Hamas arms lifeline. Another Hamas spokesman, reporting 85 gunmen killed Monday, threatened to extend its rocket attacks to new Israeli locations, including Rehovot, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv, if Israel troops enter Gaza City.
Eight Israeli soldiers were injured in firefights with Hamas in Gaza Monday, four civilians were wounded and many more suffered shock as 35 rockets slammed into Israel.
A European Union ministerial delegation had little but words to offer for securing a ceasefire in the conflict sparked by Hamas’ missile and rocket blitz against Israel.
Former British prime minister, the Middle East Quartet’s envoy, had nothing to contribute beyond another ceasefire call, as the Palestinians claimed 524 dead and nearly 2,000 wounded since Dec, 27.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the Israeli offensive on his way to Jerusalem and Ramallah from talks with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.
A powerful Grad Katyusha came perilously close to its furthest target, the town of Gedera 45 km from Gaza; one of the six rockets blasting the big port town of Ashdod hit a nursery school, and dozens of missiles and rockets were aimed at Sderot, Ashkelon, Beersheba, Shear Hanegev, and the Eshkol farms.
Replying to the international calls for a ceasefire, defense minister Ehud Barak said Israel will carry on until its objectives are attained and peace and tranquility reign in southern Israel. This has not yet happened, “so we will go on,” he said.
Since Hamas is listed by the European Union as a terrorist organization, the European ministers tended to stammer when asked if they proposed ceasefire talks with Hamas as well as Israel.
Jerusalem sources remarked that the mainstream Arab governments are silently applauding Israel for grinding down the Hamas extremists who, along with their Iranian and Hizballah patrons, are seem as destabilizing elements in the Middle East.